What Is Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy?

Birth injuries are a sad reality for many parents. In fact, statistics show that a birth injury occurs in 27 out of every 1,000 births. Some of the most common types of birth injuries include brain injurycerebral palsy, shoulder dystocia, and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy.

Despite its complex name, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is not as uncommon as it sounds. Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy is basically a brain injury caused by inadequate oxygen to the infant. Tragically, the mortality rate can be as high as 25 to 50 percent for severe cases of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and approximately 80 percent of those infants who survive HIE will develop serious medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy or developmental delays.

Causes of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is most common in full-term infants, though it can occur in premature infants, as well. Although HIE can occur for a number of reasons, there are several known risk factors for oxygen deprivation, including:

  • Eclampsia
  • Compressed or prolapsed umbilical cord
  • Placental abruption
  • Abdominal trauma
  • Excessive uterine pressure
  • Uterine hyperstimulation
  • High blood pressure
  • Maternal seizures

It is the responsibility of the obstetrician, doctor, nurse, or midwife to be aware of these risk factors and take the appropriate and necessary action to prevent oxygen deprivation and hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy from occurring. The failure to do so could amount to medical negligence, in which case the parents may wish to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit to recover money damages.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy

Mild hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy can cause temporary behavior abnormalities, such as poor feeding, irritability, excessive crying, or excessive sleepiness. It may also be evidenced by increased muscle tone and deep tendon reflexes.

Moderately severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy may show the following signs and symptoms:

  • Infant lethargy with significant hypotonia and diminished deep tendon reflexes
  • Certain reflexes (such as the grasping, Moro, and sucking reflexes) may be sluggish or absent
  • Occasional periods of apnea
  • Seizures (typically seizures occur within the first 24 hours after birth)

Severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy may show the following signs and symptoms:

  • Delayed and severe seizures
  • Coma
  • Irregular breathing
  • Generalized hypotonia and depressed deep tendon reflexes
  • Absent neonatal reflexes (such as the grasping, Moro, sucking, and swallowing reflexes)
  • Vision problems
  • Dilated pupils
  • Irregular heart rate and blood pressure

Contact a Birth Injury Lawyer

The Chicago birth injury attorneys at Cogan & Power, P.C. have represented hundreds of clients involved in birth injury cases and, as a result, we are well aware of the signs of possible medical negligence. Our considerable experience handling Chicago birth injury medical malpractice cases allows us to provide our clients with efficient and effective legal counsel. Moreover, our attorneys have dedicated their legal practice to helping the victims of medical malpractice recover for their losses and injuries, and we are committed to making the medical field safer for patients.

Contact our office today at (312) 477-2500 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Chicago birth injury lawyers.